By Erin Williams
Give me a quiet beach, trees for shade, gorgeous fish and I am a happy camper. Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world happen to be at a certain resort in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and all have shade and amazing fish. Caneel Bay was a beloved home away from home for Laurance Rockefeller that he purchased in its original plantation layout in 1955. He later donated the property to Jackson Hole Preserve who then purchased 5,000 acres surrounding Caneel Bay and donated the land to the government, which grew to become the U.S.V.I. National Park. The Resort itself includes 170 acres on a peninsula that is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Bottom line, you're surrounded by trees, water, and some serious views. Okay, history lesson over! On to the room!
We checked in to our Beach Front Room and became giddy as we saw how close we were to the ocean – just steps – and the view of the beach itself. We were located on Caneel Bay (there are seven beaches/bays that compose the Caneel Bay Resort) which was probably the busiest beach, and by busy I mean about ten people out there at a time. Our patio had two fan chairs and a lounging chair to sit and watch the water. Upon entering our room we were greeted with a substantial bottle of local rum, a can of Coke, and a large bottle of water (you'll probably need all three!). The bed was huge with amazing linens and all of the rooms were air conditioned (though there's also the ability to open vents to let the tradewinds float through as well). Here's the part that will make it or break it for you – there are no televisions and no telephones in the rooms. It was great for us! There is a Business Center with internet, phone, and fax so you can start breathing.
Caneel Bay also does a lovely turndown service each night and has housekeeping twice a day. The bathrooms are simple but inviting with a shower and some of the most amazing bath products you're likely to ever try! Lady Primrose is the toiletry diva of choice and the Coconut Shampoo and Hair Revitalizer are sure to make it into your bag home. The resort provides beach towels, robes, slippers, iron and board, hairdryer, umbrella, and bug spray (which we didn't need) in each room.
Of the 166 guest rooms there are four different types – Courtside (located alongside the 11 terraced outdoor tennis courts), Beach Front (right on the beach with either a balcony or patio), Ocean View (a couple hundred feet behind the Beach Front rooms with beautiful views of the water), and Garden View (nestled throughout the resort, these rooms are surrounded by flowering buses and indigenous flowers). The Beach Front and Ocean View Rooms can also be Premium locations and there is the amazingly luxurious Cottage 7 where Rockefeller and his family always stayed.
The beaches each have their own personality – Caneel and Little Caneel are probably where you'll find the most action as the office is nearby, they have the dock for the ferry from the airport, and they're the spot to grab your complimentary snorkeling gear, rafts, Sunfish, sea kayaks, and windsurfers. Honeymoon is a further walk with no accomodations nearby – very private, amazingly gorgeous, and where we saw an iguana! Paradise and Scott are "peace and quiet" beaches (read – no children) and are incredible for snorkeling – we saw parrot fish, sea turtles, and cuddle fish. Turtle Bay is a cozy cove near where complimentary tea is sometimes served and has covered areas to stay out of the sun. Hawksnest's waters are full of tiny minnows that form ribbons around you as you swim but look out for the barracudas! All of the beaches, with the exception of Honeymoon, have a little bus service to whip you around without your breaking a sweat.
Turtle Bay Estate House
There's no need to leave as you can have every meal "on site". The Caneel Beach Terrace overlooks Caneel Bay and serves amazing breakfast and lunch buffets in an open-air setting. The Caneel Bay Bar offers food from the grill for lunch and dinner and has live music in the evening. Equator is one of the most beautiful places to eat on the island and the open air views are just stunning! Take a walk around the Sugar Mill ruins before dinner which surround the restaurant. Turtle Bay Estate House has a little more formal feel as meals are served inside an 18th century plantation house. Keep an eye out for the dessert souffles!
If you need something a little deeper than the 24 hour fitness center, the Self Center is for you. Run by Jan Kinder, a registered nurse and educator for Deepak Chopra, the quiet bluff that serves as the location has meditation, yoga, and other hollistic offerings.
We had exceptional service from everyone to our baggage handler to the man who gave us his favorite snorkeling spots around the beaches as he fit our flippers. We loved wandering the grounds and checking out all of the beautiful flowers of all colors and sizes as well as roaming over rocks that jutted out along the shore. It was truly breathtaking and a wonderful place to get away from the craziness of everyday life. The hardest part was leaving!
Caneel Bay can be further explored at http://www.caneelbay.com/.
Lady Primrose Products are available at http://www.ladyprimrose.com./